This chapter hits at the heart of Osborne's thesis (the power of sermon based small group studies), and in this review, Lowry does a good job of highlighting the value of such an approach. He writes: "Why? In a nutshell, people will actually end up being knowledgeable when it comes to the Word of God and its implications." Read on . . .
Chapter 8: How Sermon-Based Small Groups Made Me a Better Preacher
Post written by Brian Lowery on The Preaching Today Blog.
August 18, 2009
While I suspect a good number of you have long heard about sermon-based small groups (if only because I suspect a good number of you have participated in one of Rick Warren's 40-day campaigns), some of you might not know much about this methodology or the convictions behind it. If you want to learn a little more about this approach to small groups ministry, you might want to check out Larry Osborne's Sticky Church. It offers a very basic, quick-read overview.
In Sticky Church, Osborne insists few things will be more revolutionary for your church than this approach to small groups. Why? In a nutshell, people will actually end up being knowledgeable when it comes to the Word of God and its implications.
Not just inspired.
Not just vaguely familiar.
Not just aware of certain propositions and principles.
As in people actually being able to teach the Word and its implications to others.
Small group leaders have often been trained to lead a group of people through a study of a book of the Bible (Philippians), a book by a Christian author (Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew), or a hot topic item (The Da Vinci Code). In sermon-based small groups, leaders help their small group focus on what was learned in Sunday's sermon. In other words, small groups are not a supplemental or additional study. They are more of an extended study. To put it another way: The aim of small groups has often been to get one more Bible lesson or life lesson into people's minds. The goal of sermon-based small groups is to make sure people explore every nook and cranny—related themes, related texts, points of application, issues for prayer—of the one lesson they just had together in worship. One idea, one theme, one text, contends for people's minds at a given time. In the end, Osborne insists you are no longer surrounded by "kinda know" people. You are surrounded by knowledgeable people (to revisit a previous point).
But here's something of interest for many of you out there: Osborne also insists few things will be more revolutionary for you as a preacher. Your preaching ministry and its reach will grow in ways you've only imagined. In chapter 8, he writes (in somewhat comical ways) about the longing all preachers have for people to listen—really listen. To lean forward in their seats, hanging on every word. To scribble notes on scraps of paper or in the margins of their Bibles. To be radically transformed by what they hear. After years of struggling to make that longing a reality, Osborne finally found his way forward in sermon-based small groups. I guess I would put it this way: he realized that while it might take one person to preach a sermon, it takes a village to make it stick. And as Osborne has watched his messages stick—as he has seen people explore the depth of a text's implications and put thought into action—it has reinvigorated him as a preacher. He knows with certainty that he is regularly reaching more people in deeper ways—reeling in the marginally-minded, mainstreaming new believers, and rallying the long-time members.
Of course, as I read Osborne's words, I couldn't help but think that there are some real challenges in all of this. First of all, the preacher better say something on Sunday that's worth talking about on Monday. There's not much room for shallow teaching if you want people to wade into waters of deep discussion. Secondly, I cannot help but think about a problem that has long plagued classrooms: students often learn for the test and not for a career, furiously copying down points with little care for the world of implications that point raises. So it might be with this approach to small groups. You will need to find ways to assure that people aren't just listening for the answers, but for ways into a Christ-centered life. But if Osborne is right, when done appropriately and with great discipline (the bulk of the book actually tackles how this ministry is carried out at the church where Osborne serves), sermon-based small groups could very well do some revolutionary work among the people of your church.
For more reflections on Larry Osborne's Sticky Church, check out the Sticky Church Blog Tour.
3 John 8